New Law Makes It Easier for Irish Nationals to Obtain British Citizenship

| June 12, 2024
New Law Makes It Easier for Irish Nationals to Obtain British Citizenship

A new bill simplifying the process for Irish nationals to obtain British citizenship is now a law.

The law, officially known as the British Nationality (Irish Citizens) Act 2024, amends the British Nationality Act 1981.

A significant component of the bill is creating a simpler route for Irish nationals to gain British citizenship.

The British Nationality (Irish Citizens) Act passed the House of Commons on 26 April 2024.

It reached the committee stage in the House of Lords for cross-party support on 17 May.

Following agreement by both Houses on the bill’s text, it received Royal Assent on 24 May.

What is the British Nationality (Irish Citizens) Law?

The law eliminates several bureaucratic hurdles that previously made it challenging for Irish citizens to be naturalized as British citizens.

It simplifies the process of Irish nationals’ applying for British citizenship, reduces the fees, and offers automatic eligibility in some categories.

The British Nationality (Irish Citizens) Law allows Irish nationals to register for British citizenship after five years of living in the UK.

They must not have breached UK immigration laws at any time during their five years of living in the country.

They should not have been outside the UK for more than 450 days in those five years or more than 90 days in their fifth year of residency.

It also applies to Irish nationals living in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, and British overseas territories.

Additionally, Irish nationals can now apply for British citizenship without taking an English language or Life in the UK test.

In unique cases, the Secretary of State may allow a person to meet a requirement even if they don’t actually meet it.

Applying for British citizenship will now cost Irish nationals only £80.

History of the UK and Ireland

The relationship between the UK and Ireland has always been unique, with deep historical, cultural, and familial connections.

Under the Good Friday Agreement, people born in Northern Ireland can choose to be citizens of Ireland, the UK, or both.

The Irish Government has made it easy for anyone born on the island of Ireland, those with partners born there, or individuals with grandparents or great-grandparents from the isle to obtain an Irish passport.

In the UK, Irish-born people living in Northern Ireland or anywhere else in the country have the right to work, study, and vote in the UK.

However, Irish nationals have had to follow the same process toward citizenship as any other foreign national.

This means they must pass an English language and Life in the UK test and pay £1,630 for naturalization.

Lord Hay of Ballyore, who was born in the Republic of Ireland but moved to Londonderry when he was 6, called it an anomaly, according to a report by The Standard.

“For anyone who was born in the Republic of Ireland but has made their home in the UK and who satisfies the residency test should be able to avail of UK citizenship,” he said.

Political and public response to the new law

The bill has garnered significant support from various political figures.

Lord Rogan said the easier route to British citizenship should have been available for Irish nationals earlier.

He added that people born in the Republic of Ireland should have been included in the Good Friday Agreement.

Lord Browne of Belmont expressed that it was simply “wrong” for Irish people to pay a naturalization fee.

Home Office minister Lord Sharpe of Epsom stressed that the UK government fully supports the new law.

He acknowledged that many immigration-related British naturalization requirements do not apply to Irish nationals.

“Equally, the UK has a unique relationship with Ireland and the close historical links, geographical proximity, and shared institutions between the two countries,” said Lorde Sharpe.

He added that those who would use the new route “already have sufficient knowledge of language and life in the UK.”

This is further reinforced by five years of qualifying residency anywhere in the UK.

Public response has also been largely positive. Many Irish nationals in the UK expressed relief and optimism about the new measures.

The new British citizenship route will benefit those navigating their identity between the two nations.

The Irish Government has welcomed the bill, recognizing its potential to enhance cooperation and harmony in Northern Ireland.

Future implications of the new British citizenship route

The passing of the new bill to ease the path to British citizenship for Irish nationals marks a significant milestone in UK-Ireland relations.

The British Nationality (Irish Citizens) Act will likely increase the number of Irish nationals applying for British citizenship.

It promises to make a profound difference in the lives of many Irish nationals residing in the UK, fostering a spirit of unity and shared heritage.

As of 2021, there were 523,014 people born in the Republic of Ireland living in England and Wales.

This includes 324,670 individuals from the Republic of Ireland and 198,344 from Northern Ireland.